Alan Twigg, Author

Alan Twigg with Guitar Case Alan Twigg was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada in 2015. He received the 13th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2016. Previously he was the first and only recipient of ABPBC Media Award in 1988 and the inaugural recipient of the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to literature and publishing in 2000. In 2007, he became the second person (after Vancouver Sun journalist Douglas Todd) to accept the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University “to recognize and support leaders in the humanities who are not necessarily part of the academy.” In the same year he was the first Writer in Residence at the George Price Center for Peace in Belize. In 2010, he received the Pandora’s Collective Publisher’s Award of Merit. In 2011 he received the Mayor of Vancouver’s annual Literary Arts Award. He also won the gold medal for soccer at the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy, in 2013, with a team from Vancouver.


Since 1987, Alan Twigg has written and published B.C. BookWorld, an assertively middle brow publication distributed by more than 650 outlets in B.C. The educational newspaper has been cited by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing as the most essential cog in the infrastructure that supports writing and publishing in British Columbia.

Since 2001, as an adjunct to that populist publication, he has also written and managed ABCBookWorld, a public reference service for and about more than 13,000 British Columbia authors. Hosted by Simon Fraser University Library, this service has become the Wikipedia of B.C. literature, attracting more than 4,000 visitors per day.

Since 2014, he has devised, launched and written BCBookLook, an omnibus news hub for B.C. literature. It provides original material such as videos, audio interviews, blogs, bestseller lists, lengthy essays, excerpts, theatre reviews, event information and news stories. More than 1,500 original posts were added during its first two-and-a-half years.

In 2015, he created the Literary Map of B.C., a digital platform highlighting the cultural importance of 190 B.C. authors and locations. It contains the equivalent of nine books of original text and photos. He has simultaneously selected, and wrote text for, more than fifty literary landmarks erected in Vancouver for the Vancouver Public Library.

In 2016, he created and launch The Ormsby Review, a new forum for in-depth book reviews and essays pertaining to British Columbia, edited by Richard Mackie. In its first two years a a pilot project, unfunded, they generated 360 contributions from almost 300 contributors. It has since become the most prodigious avenue for serious criticism of books from and about British Columbia.


Alan Twigg is the author of seventeen books. These include biographies, interviews, a sports memoir, a series on B.C. literary history and histories of Belize and Cuba. Most recently he edited Undaunted, an anthology to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of B.C. BookWorld and he provided the introduction for Peter Sekirin’s Memories of Chekhov (2011).

In 2008, he wrote the first literary book about the beautiful game from a Canadian perspective, Full-Time: A Soccer Story, It’s a year-long account of Vancouver soccer players who travel to southern Spain to compete against much younger teams, including European ex-professionals. It was re-released in a Readers Digest version in 2010. In 2013, he returned to Europe and won a gold medal in soccer for Canada at the World Masters Games in Turin, where his undefeated team allowed one goal in seven games to win the world championship for men over age fifty. Held every four years, the World Masters Games are considered the Olympics for global athletes over age forty.

Alan Twigg with George Woodcock

Alan Twigg with George Woodcock

In 2009, he wrote Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks, a book about the private lives of the prolific anarchist George Woodcock and his Buddhist wife Ingeborg Woodcock who befriended the Dalai Lama in 1961. Their charitable aid work gave rise to two, still operational, non-profit societies, Tibetan Refugee Aid Society and Canada India Village Aid.

In 2010, he published the first critical and comprehensive overview of B.C. literature, The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors, the fourth and largest volume in his series on the literary history of British Columbia that includes First Invaders (2004), Aboriginality (2005) and Thompson’s Highway (2006). Aboriginality remains the first (and only) book to have comprehensively examined indigeous literature on a provincial basis.

He has also been a contributor to books about Leonard Cohen, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, Matt Cohen and the Georgia Straight, as well as assorted anthologies. His first book of literary history, Vancouver & Its Writers, was shortlisted for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 1987. First Invaders was shortlisted for the same award in 2005, the same year he won First Prize in the Lush Creative Non-Fiction contest, sponsored by subTerrain magazine. His award-winning memoir about the death of his father was re-published in The Utne Reader. The Essentials received an honourable mention from the B.C. Historical Society for its annual Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for B.C. history (distinct from the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence).


Alan Twigg has founded or co-founded most of the major literary awards in British Columbia. He co-founded the B.C. Book Prizes in 1985, serving as an unpaid executive director and chief fundraiser during a rebuilding stage in the 1990s, providing continuous management support until 2001 when he was briefly sidelined by a brain tumour that was successfully removed by Dr. Christopher Honey at Vancouver General Hospital.

In 1995, he solely founded the $5000 George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia; he has continuously managing all aspects ever since.

In 2004 he co-founded the $2500 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness, for which he continuosly provides all administrative services on a volunteer basis.

In 2012 he co-founded the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for outstanding academic book about British Columbia, an award he also co-manages on a volunteer basis.

As well, he founded and coordinated the VanCity Book Prize for best B.C. book pertaining to women’s issues, since discontinued. He coordinated the City of Vancouver Book Prize for five years and he has organized various events to honour the province’s senior writers, including a series of events for and about British Columbia’s foremost man of letters, George Woodcock, in 1994.


Among the various documentary films he has written, produced and hosted are George Woodcock, Anarchist of Cherry Street; Jeannette Armstrong: Knowledge-Keeper; and Spilsbury’s Coast which aired nationally on CBC. Other documentary film subjects have included Eric Nicol, Peter Trower, the B.C. Book Prizes and the activist/poet Bud Osborn, for whom he also produced a music CD called Hundred Block Rock. He and musician colleague David Lester helped to orchestrate Bud Osborn’s candidacy for city council.

For several years he contributed to Sheryl MacKay’s CBC Radio program North by Northwest with an ongoing series about important B.C. books called ‘Turning Up the Volumes.’ He has hosted a CBC television series about B.C. authors.

From 1995 to 1998 he was an editorial page columnist for The Province, a stint that was terminated by the intervention of Conrad Black, the owner, who objected to his opinions. He has contributed to many other  publications such as Quill & Quire, BC Historical News, Georgia Straight, Globe & Mail, British Columbia History, Lived Experience, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Maclean’s, Vancouver Sun, Step and Pacific Northwest Review of Books.

For approximately three years in the early 1980s, he wrote a weekly theatre column for Georgia Straight, taking over the column from Tom Shandel and participating in the inaugural Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards. He also edited one issue of the Georgia Straight newspaper (with Arts Club mentor and manager Bill Millerd on its cover). He wrote and performed an original musical at the Arts Club Revue Theatre, Where The Songs Come From. In 2013, under the pseudonym Paul Durras, he resumed providing theatre reviews for The Province and for, a site managed by veteran actor Jerry Wasserman.

Alan Twigg was a founding board member of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing and he has taught classes at the Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and various high schools. He briefly taught a course on the history of B.C. publishing and literature for Simon Fraser University, a university he dropped out of in 1971 after one year of study, choosing to drive a garbage truck instead.

He served a two-year term as a Library Trustee on the board of directors for the Vancouver Public Library (2011-2012). He has also served on the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Committee and he has hosted countless literary events, including the Simon Fraser University’s third annual Symposium on the Novel at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in 2004 and the 25th annual B.C. Book Prizes gala in 2009.

For five years he collected and sent nursing and medical supplies to Belize, in conjunction with DHL. In 1999 he coordinated a fundraising campaign for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, an organization he continues to support. In 2007, he organized and hosted Reckoning 07, a conference on the past and future of British Columbia writing and publishing, held at Simon Fraser University in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of BC BookWorld.

In 2016, he commenced a campaign to support a remote village in western Tanzania called Luhombero, giving rise to three visits to Africa. Details are at With the support of the readership for B.C. BookWorld and two friends in particular, Michael Audain and Yosef Wosk, he was able to raise enough funding to purchase a new pick-up to serve as an emergency vehicle for the community while augmenting efforts to introduce agricultural projects for year-round food production.

He is a fifth-generation Vancouverite. Relatives of both his mother and father lived in British Columbia in the 1800s.

AUDIO FILE: Prior to receiving the 13th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2016, Alan Twigg was interviewed by CBC Radio’s Sheryl MacKay for her program, North By Northwest, on May 1, 2016.


Undaunted: The Best of BC BookWorld (Ronsdale, 2013). 978-1-55380-253-2  242 p.

The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors. (Ronsdale, 2010). 978-1-55380-108-5 320 p.

Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks (Ronsdale, 2009). 978-1-55380-079-8 271 p.

Full-Time: A Soccer Story (Douglas Gibson Books, McClelland & Stewart, 2008). 978-0-7710-8645-8 293 p.

Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800-1850 (Ronsdale, 2006) 978-1-55380-039-2 253 p.

Understanding Belize: A Historical Guide (Harbour 2006). 240 p.

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2005). 260 p.

First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2004). 229 p.

101 Top Historical Sites of Cuba (Beach Holme 2004). 126 p.

Intensive Care: A Memoir (Anvil Press 2002). 80 p.

Cuba: A Concise History for Travellers (Harbour, 2004; Penguin Books 2002; Bluefield Books 2000). 198 p.

Twigg’s Directory of 1001 BC Writers (Crown Publications 1992). 194 p.

Strong Voices: Conversations with 50 Canadian Writers (Harbour 1988). 291 p.

Vander Zalm, From Immigrant to Premier: A Political Biography (Harbour 1986).

Vancouver and Its Writers (Harbour 1986). 165 p.

Hubert Evans: The First Ninety-Three Years (Harbour 1985).

For Openers: Conversations with 24 Canadian Writers (Harbour 1981).


First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 1 (Peking University Press, 2013)

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 2 (Peking University Press, 2013)

Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800–1850: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 3 (Peking University Press, 2013)


Alan Twigg and Leonard Cohen

Alan Twigg and Leonard Cohen

Conversations with Robertson Davies (University Press of Mississippi 1989)

Margaret Atwood, Conversations (Firefly 1990)

Take This Waltz: A Celebration of Leonard Cohen (The Muses Company 1994)

Uncommon Ground: A Celebration of Matt Cohen (Knopf 2002)

Memories of Chekhov: Accounts of the Writer from His Family, Friends and Contemporaries (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Press, 2011). Edited and translated by Peter Sekirin; Introduction by Alan Twigg


George Woodcock: Anarchist of Cherry Street

Eric Nicol: Look Back in Humour

Peter Trower: The Men They Were Then

Jeannette Armstrong: Knowledge-Keeper of the Okanagan

Spilsbury’s Coast

Future Projects

Future projects include a play about the life and loves of Anton Chekhov and a biography of Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall, a Canadian who managed a remote epilepsy clinic in Tanzania for more than fifty years. It was conceived as an attempt to prove that the lives of people who are good can be as interesting as the constant glorification of people who are evil.